As my car’s original warranty came close to being up I started to contemplate what I was going to do about repairs once the Audi warranty wasn’t around. The idea of an aftermarket warranty was appealing since I was counting on at least a couple expensive repairs down the road. Actually, aftermarket warranty is incorrect; the policies that are being offered are service contracts, not warranties.
There were several companies out there offering service contracts but Autowarrantybroker.com had received some good feedback and so I started to look into a plan with them. An additional 4 years and 50k miles was the program I was interested in.
I was a bit concerned about the aftermarket parts I had on my car, because the service contract stated that modifications to the drive train, suspension, and exhaust, if not approved by Audi, were not allowed. So I contacted AWB and asked if I was required to use Audi parts, because there were parts on my car that weren’t from Audi, such as the exhaust. The representative I spoke with said that non-Audi parts were ok as long as they met manufacturers specifications. Since I only bought high quality aftermarket parts I figured I was ok. I knew the APR chip I had might be a problem, but I was figuring that only with a turbo or transmission failure would the issue come up. It was also good to know that at any point I could cancel the contract and get a prorated refund back.
Claim attempt number one. I noticed at slow speeds in an against the stops left turn there was a ticking sound coming from the passenger side wheel well, with a frequency near the rate at which the wheel turned. Some preliminary diagnostic work had me thinking it may be a CV joint starting to fail. I brought the car to a local garage and had them contact AWB. The shop was told to not do any work because nothing had failed yet. I discussed the problem with the shop and decided to wait and see if things got worse.
Claim attempt number two arrived when I was opening the drivers side door from the inside and heard a crack, along with the door handle not returning all of the way to the resting position. I went in to the local Audi dealership and they diagnosed the problem as a return spring inside the door that had broken. I had them contact AWB about repairing the part. They were told the part was not covered. This spring inside the door was considered a Body & Trim part by AWB, and those items were not covered. I was a bit miffed at AWB at this point because the Audi dealership did not categorize this part as a Body & Trim piece; AWB chose to define it that way. Conveniently for them, their categorization did not require them to pay for the repair.
Claim attempt number three happened while I was having a Stg3 kit installed. It was discovered that the flywheel was showing signs of starting to fail. While it had not yet failed, it was likely that it would in the near future. I assumed AWB would not cover the work because the part had not yet failed, so I gave the shop the ok to begin the repair. After some additional consideration I decided to try and file a claim with AWB. Because this repair was over a specific cost threshold they needed to send an inspector out to check out the defective part. This was where the fun began.
I learned from the shop that the inspector’s visit consisted of taking a bunch of pictures of my car, most all of which had nothing to do with the part in question. Two days later they heard from AWB, they were not going to approve the work. I placed a follow up call for an explanation. The reason was for modifications, including performance exhaust, brakes, aftermarket computer, frame ties for racing (I think they meant the drive train stabilizer – DTS), and coilovers. The person I spoke to didn’t state that I needed to use OEM parts, but that the parts needed to meet specs similar to what Audi sells. He stated that Audi wouldn’t sell a car with an adjustable coilover suspension, and that a place like Meineke would use a shock with a similar stiffness to what Audi OEM is. I continued further questioning while mentioning that Audi sells stiffer shocks (the Eibach kit for the A4), and then how would I know if mine met Audi’s standards. He shuffled me off to the voicemail of the guy who originally handled this claim. I left a message asking him to contact me, he never did. I called AWB back the following day since the person I had left the message with hadn’t returned my call. I did some additional reading of the contract and the section pertaining to “Events not covered” and focused on this clause:
“(7) A replacement part not supplied by the vehicle manufacturer is not covered, unless it is of a kind and quality compatible with the design specifications and wear tolerances of the vehicle’s manufacturer.”
So the question now became, how does that clause fit with the one AWB was quoting to deny my claim:
“(19) Vehicles with modification or alterations to the powertrain, suspension (including tire or wheel sizes or offsets) or the exhaust system not approved by the Vehicle manufacturer.”
Modification is not defined anywhere by the contract terms. So when my claim is denied for a “modification”, ie aftermarket coilovers, are the coilovers a “modification” to the suspension, or a “replacement part” that may or may not meet manufacturers specs?
The second person I got on the phone with at AWB said any part that changes the performance of the vehicle from stock is a modification. Further, he indicated that the only replacement parts that were legitimate to be used on the car were Audi parts. I asked him to verify that only Audi OEM replacement parts were acceptable, and he stated yes.
He then went on to mention the DTS, which they term a “frame tie”, as something that would stiffen the frame, which he said was part of the suspension, and thus also met the criteria for denial because it’s a modification to the suspension. This I felt was quite a stretch, but decided the knucklehead I was talking to wasn’t going to change his story so there wasn’t any point to argue the matter.
Concerning the wiring to the engine control unit; I have an Aquamist W/I kit, which has some wires running under the hood to the inside of the cabin. AWB claimed that these wires were used to allow a computer to connect to the engine control unit and modify the operating parameters of the engine. This was a gross error on the part of the inspector; the Aquamist wires do not tie into the ECU at all.
Next we took up the exhaust. Again, they asserted I have a performance exhaust, which by their definition is a modification. I continued to ask what the difference between a modification and replacement part was, though it seemed they were comfortable with requiring all OEM parts, since they could then claim anything non-OEM would perform differently than stock, thus qualifying as a modification and allow them to deny a claim.
My argument with them was this: As far as the powertrain, suspension, and exhaust were concerned, I have replacement parts on the vehicle. I swapped aftermarket coilovers and exhaust with the stock components, I hadn’t modified them. If they don’t meet manufacturer specs for replacement parts, then I agree that they shouldn’t need to repair them. My claim was for a replacement flywheel, which is Audi-OEM.
Again I was dissatisfied with the answers the person on the phone was giving me, and I asked to speak to someone that could address my concerns. I was passed off again to a voice mail and left yet another message which was also never returned. I then filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I gave them the history of what had happened, and added the following:
The contract states that the service contract takes precedence over any other written or oral statements made to me with respect to the contract. The issue is what constitutes a replacement part and what a modification is, this is not clearly defined in the contract. The people I have spoken with at AWB have each created their own interpretation and indicated that any non-Audi part would constitute a modification, thus the reason for my request being denied. This contradicts what the contract says about replacement parts. I have non-Audi parts on my car, but they have failed to demonstrate that these parts are not legitimate replacement parts, and not approved by Audi. Additionally, it is clear from my conversations that they made a cursory look at the car, and now are basing decisions upon assumptions. They have made some statements about parts on the vehicle that are absolutely false. This concerns me as to what facts they based their decision on.
What I want them to do
I would like AWB to provide evidence showing that the replacement parts on my car fail to meet the requirements for a replacement part. I would like them to show that Audi of America does not approve of the parts on my car as they have claimed. If they are unable to do these things I would like them to fulfill the claim request or provide a refund for the total amount I have paid for the contract.
Simultaneously I sent a letter via certified mail to AWB requesting a written statement of denial. I had asked for this on the phone but they told me I would need to request such a document in writing. Although I received confirmation that the letter was received at AWB they never responded to my letter.
After a couple of weeks the BBB contacted me informing me that AWB had not responded to their inquiry in this matter. They asked if I had heard from AWB, and if I was satisfied with the solution if one had been offered, or if I had outstanding concerns. I wrote again to the BBB addressing my concerns.
I contacted my local Audi service center concerning the question of what would be an approved non-Audi part. It was made clear that Audi does not approve or disapprove of any non-Audi parts. To do such a thing would require Audi automotive group to test these non-Audi parts, of which there are potentially thousands.
This time the BBB did get a response from AWB. In it they claimed that due to the modifications they were denying the claim. Enclosed were the documents from the inspector, and AWB requesting the inspector to look at the car. (See documents) I found it quite interesting that in the special request section AWB had asked the inspector to look for modifications, this was before they knew anything at all about my car. From the start they were looking for a way to avoid paying this claim.
I decided to contact AWB directly and see if they would provide me a full refund. I felt a full refund was justified since they had never paid a claim on my vehicle. I spoke with a representative at Premier Dealer Services. AWB merely sells the contract; Premier Dealer Services is the company that handles the claims. The person there was unfamiliar with my case and so listened as I told him about the issues I was having. He stated that he would need to contact the claim adjuster who handled my case to get his side of the story.
A couple hours later he called me back and stated that the reason my claim was denied was because I had not received prior approval before authorizing the work. I told him that I had a statement from a Mr. Leddington, to the BBB, indicating the reason for the denial was because of modifications. I also had a document from Mr. Nocon to Mr. Leddington stating the reason for denial was modifications, as well as listing the specific items of concern. The person I was speaking with said he had just spoken to Mr. Nocon, and Nocon had told him the reason it was denied was failure to obtain prior authorization.
At this point I felt it was useless to deal with this company any further. If they were willing to change their story in such manner as they had I just saw more aggravation in the future. I said I felt a full refund would be appropriate. The person I was speaking with stated that I had been receiving coverage for a period of time, and it would not be fair to them to give a full refund since they were providing a service. We went back and forth for a while, and finally I decided to get a prorated refund, and then contact my credit card company about trying to get the remainder back.
The BBB had informed me that they did not have the power to compel AWB to meet my demands and that I may want to seek other assistance such as an attorney. They also allowed me to send them a final statement on this matter to be filed with them. My last statement was:
Re: Follow up to dispute with AutoWarrantyBroker.com concerning denial of service.
The following are my outstanding concerns regarding the claim I made with AutoWarrantyBroker.com.
- I sent AutoWarrantyBroker.com a request via certified mail for an explanation for why they were denying my request for service. They never responded to my request despite the letter being received by B. Brady on March 23, 2005.
- Premier Dealer Services has failed to address the issue of ambiguity between what the contract states are permissible replacement parts and prohibited modifications.
- Premier Dealer Services has failed to show that the parts on my vehicle are not legitimate replacement parts.
- The contract states that the vehicles manufacturer, Audi, must not approve of the claimed modifications to suspension, drive train, or wheels. Premier Dealer Services has not provided any evidence that they received information from Audi indicating the parts in question were not approved, before they denied my claim.
- The statements made by the independent field adjuster regarding the “aftermarket wiring to the engine control unit” and the “coil over adjustable spring suspension” are incorrect. I am including a statement from the service facility refuting the inspector’s findings on those items.
- Premier Dealer Services has failed to agree to settle this dispute by providing me with a full refund. This is despite the fact that they have never paid any claim on my vehicle.
- Premier Dealer Services has lied about why my service for request was denied. In verbal and written statements to the BBB and myself Premier Dealer Services stated that my claim was refused due to modifications. I spoke to John Gregory at Premier Dealer Services on April 25th and he stated the reason my claim was denied was failure to obtain authorization, prior to the service.
I then contacted my credit card companies dispute resolution department and started a claim with them. In the meantime I received my prorated refund.